About the Author

Rev Aaron Eime is the deacon of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem, the first Protestant Church in the Middle East. Aaron studied at the Hebrew University in the Masters Program with the focus towards Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation of Bible. Aaron also studied Psychology and Sociology at Queensland University in Australia in the Social Work Program. He is a dedicated Bible teacher exploring the Hebraic Roots of the Christian Faith. He has taught Internationally in many countries including Europe, North America, Hong Kong and China. Aaron is the Director of Research and Education at Christ Church. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and 3 children.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Did Yeshua ever declare He was Messiah?

Perhaps one of the more frustrating things about the Gospels is that Jesus never seems to tell people He is the Messiah. When people actually figure it out He often gives instructions to be quiet and not to tell anyone. Which on the surface seems incredibly self-defeating for your mission if your mission is to be the Messiah and for people to follow you as such. 

Linguistics is the scientific study of languages in three major aspects: language form, language meaning and language context. It is in the Hebraic context, the use of and meaning of the language of Jesus (Hebrew), that Jesus does indeed share His Messiahship and mission, and He does so at the beginning of His ministry. Right at the start! 

Luke 4 details the introduction to the ministry of Jesus, setting the scene in His hometown synagogue of Nazareth. Jesus (Yeshua), obviously a trained Bible reader, is handed the Isaiah portion for the Haftorah reading from the Prophets. After reading from Isaiah 61 He delivers His first recorded teaching, a one line sermon. Chapters and Verses were not introduced into the Biblical text until the 13th Century (for Chapters) and 16th Century (for Verses). In the English translation we can easily note that Yeshua, in reading Isaiah 61vs1-2, does not finish the last sentence, drops a sentence from the text and even adds a sentence altogether. If I stood up to read a portion from the Gospel of Matthew, and as I read I inserted some Psalms, a little bit of Pauline text and finished with a dose of Revelation, I might be asked to justify why I did not read the text as it was plainly written? What Jesus does though is perfectly applicable to His Jewish context and linguistic hermeneutic. He is ‘allowed’ to do what He did, due to the way Hebrew language is constructed and how it is used and applied to Biblical interpretation during the 2nd Temple Period, the time of Jesus. Remember, Jesus’ comment on this passage ‘Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4vs21). The real question we should ask ourselves then is, what was fulfilled in the scripture? 

The prophetic portion begins with רוּחַ אֲדֹנָי יֱהֹוִה עָלָי יַעַן מָשַׁח יְהֹוָה אֹתִי, ‘the Spirit of the Lord is on me’. Luke connects everything to the Spirit. Jesus is born of the Spirit, and now He is anointed by the Spirit, whereas Matthew focuses on the royalty of the Messiah. Matthew has the visit of the Magi, the majestic gifts and the proclamation as King. Luke presents the poorer side of Jesus, with more details of the Messiah at a younger age. Now after coming out of the desert, having been sent there by the Spirit, Luke presents the ministry of Jesus beginning with the Spirit of God on Jesus. 

Connecting the next portion of the sentence is the Hebrew word Ya’an, often translated as ‘because’. The literal Hebrew word for ‘because’ is ‘Ki’ and doesn’t sound anything like ‘Ya’an’. ‘Ya’an’ comes from an old root word, and is not often used, meaning to pay attention, implying the purpose of something important to be heeded. It is used linguistically to stress the importance of what follows. A modern day schoolteacher would make use of the word ‘Ya’an’ to inform the class that what follows in the instruction is fundamental and needs the class’ full attention. What follows in the Isaiah passage is quite important, which is מָשַׁח יְהֹוָה אֹתִי. Literally the verb L’Mashiach means to anoint/make a Messiah/make an anointed one. The Messiah is indeed an anointed one. Our translations express this sentence as ‘God has anointed me.’ All kings of Israel and some prophets were anointed. Each king is essentially a ‘little messiah’. However another way to say this in English is ‘God has made me Messiah’. After Yeshua reads this portion He sits down and as all the eyes of the synagogue are on Him, He states, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’. Jesus did say that He was the Messiah. He was quite clear and He declared it right at the start! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Compassion of the Messiah

The Feeding of the Five Thousand is a very familiar miracle of Jesus. Quite possibly because apart from the Resurrection it is the only miracle occurring in all four of the Gospels. After hearing of the death of His cousin, John the Baptist, Jesus seeks some solitude near Bethsaida. In doing so Jesus reveals to us some of His humanity. His cousin and colleague in ministry has been brutally murdered and He needs some time for prayer, reflection and to work through emotions. However, crowds gather and follow after Him. Instead of demanding some quiet time to Himself, when Jesus landed on the shore ‘He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.’ Mark 6vs34. 

This passage reveals one the greatest characteristics of the Messiah, His compassion. Hemla in Hebrew, compassion, is one of my favourite words. The Gospels are finely crafted texts. The words chosen are very important and certainly are not superfluous. Compassion is linked to the Sheep and the Shepherd in this miracle. 

Early Jewish Believers looked on Yeshua (Jesus) as the new Moses, the one that had been prophesied to come. Deuteronomy 18vs18, ‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you’. Thus some of the characteristics of Moses would be found to be similar in the coming prophet ‘like Moses’. The Gospels pair Compassion, Sheep and Shepherds together, drawing from a long oral tradition concerning the first Moses and link them with Jesus the Messiah. 

Question ~ why was Moses allowed to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt? That’s a pretty big assignment for anybody to undertake and it would take someone of special character to participate. Out of all the available heroes God could choose, He chose Moses. So what are the characteristics of a Hero of God? When we look at the characteristics of Moses, we see that he is a murderer - Moses slew an Egyptian. We also see that he is a liar - Moses covered up the body and tried to hide what he had done. Next we discover that Moses is a coward. Once the truth is out that he has committed murder, he flees to Midian instead of facing the consequences. Moses then spends the next 40 years in Midian, he marries the daughter of a pagan priest, raises a family and becomes wealthy tending stock animals. In those 40 years he neither returns to Egypt to discover the plight of the Hebrew slaves nor appears to dwell on the Israelite captives. So that’s the Hero type? A selfish murderer, liar and coward? Not exactly the qualities we would look for in a hero!

So when was Moses ready to lead the people? When did God find His hero equipped for the task? For help in answering this question there is a midrash on Moses that we could draw on. And it links into the Gospel’s depiction of Jesus as He supplies the miracle to the multitudes. A midrash is a method of Jewish exegesis to help answer difficult questions raised by the text, or to fill in gaps not described in the Biblical narrative that are perhaps only hinted at. The word Midrash comes from the verb ‘to seek, study, inquire’ and the actual word Midrash occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible. Example: in 2 Chronicles 13vs22 we read ‘in the midrash of the prophet Ido.’ 
The midrash recounts the story of an important incident that occurs while Moses is watching the flocks one day in Midian. One sheep wanders away from the rest of the flock. You actually see this midrash played out in the Dreamwork's animated movie The Prince of Egypt. Instead of abandoning the foolish sheep to its self-inflicted state to be torn apart by wild animals, Moses (with the voice of Val Kilmer) goes off in search of the lost one. He climbs over rocks and through briars, scuffing his arms and legs in the process. In the end he finds the lost sheep lying exhausted under a rock. As he bends down to carry the sheep back on his shoulders, then suddenly the bush nearby catches fire, and God speaks to His hero. God could see the compassion in the heart of Moses for the one lost, foolish sheep and He knows that His hero is ready to lead the People of Israel. Moses is finally ready. Moses has added the quality of Compassion in his heart, and that is the quality God is looking for in His heroes. 

When you look at other heroes of God in the Bible, we see their flaws, their sins and failings, but we also see the characteristic in them that made them heroes. If you want to be a hero of God, then you need compassion too. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Time for Hope

There is a time for everything under heaven, the Wise Man once said (Ecclesiastes 3). Happy New Year and according to the Gregorian Calendar, welcome to 2016. It is common that when the clock ticks over from one epoch to another, like a year or a century, that there are times for celebration and looking to the future and sometimes for reflection and pondering the past. Often both at the same time. 

Looking forward at the new year to come, the time ahead seems fraught with difficulties. In the build up to inaugurating 2016, several events in Paris, Moscow, Jakarta, Madrid, New York and Sydney were cancelled or reduced. The world enters 2016 a little jittery, economies teeter on the edge of recessions, despite oil being lower than ever nothing seems to actually be cheaper at all (except oil), terrorism casts an ugly shadow that only seems to get longer and reach further into our cities, and our leaders appear quite powerless to solve any of those problems. Thankfully as believers it is good to remember that God remains King of the Universe and He sits on the Throne.  As Lord of Time He is in control, and that is a comforting thought. Without God ruling and reigning as He does, the world would indeed be hopeless. 

But there is a time for Hope, Tikvah in Hebrew. When the apostle Paul condensed all of the Christian Faith down into three words he wrote ‘… these three things remain, Faith, Hope and Love and the greatest of these is … not Faith!’ (Which will have to be the subject of another post! 1 Corinthians 13vs13). Now before I get labeled as a heretic let me be clear. Faith in the Messiah is extremely important. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, says the Messiah. However, Scripture reminds us that the greatest of these is Love. This does not diminish Faith in anyway. Too often though, Hope is forgotten that it is in this short list. And Hope is such a powerful word. 

It is the apostle Peter who instructs us to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3vs15). He does not say we need to give a reason for our Faith. Why not? Why not be prepared to defend the Faith. Probably because this world simply just does not care. No one cares about our Faith anymore. They don't want to know. Don't get me wrong, I love apologetics. We are now in a world that has embraced the subjective lie that truth is relative and that there are no absolutes. One person’s truth is just as valid as another person’s truth. Who's to judge? It’s very hard to argue against. People are ok if we believe in Jesus, just as long as we don't try and tell them about it. The world says: “You believe in Jesus, that’s wonderful. Now you and Jesus just sit over there but me and my crystals will be just fine over here, thank you. Don't try and impose your reality on my reality. I’m ok!” 

Peter also does not urge us to give a reason for our Love. Generally the world doesn't demand from us a reason why we are good. People don't usually say, “I saw you help your neighbour out yesterday. Stop that, stop being nice. You should not do that, it’s bad to be nice. Stop loving!” Love is not the realm only of the believer. Love is a chief characteristic of God. The designer has put it inside His design and Love is in all of his Creation. Perfect Love casts out all fear. 

We can not trust our governments to solve the problems, and we can not trust in our economies to secure our future. We can trust in God and Him alone. In a world without God, when the lights go out and you close your eyes for the very last time, all is lost, it’s all gone. This short life becomes pointless and meaningless and there is no hope. It’s depressing. But we don't think that way. Our trust is in the Lord who lives. We believe He is on the Throne and He is in control. We believe that Messiah did not remain dead and that He did rise to life and so shall we. And that means that there is Hope. Hope that things will get better, hope that the dawn will come and chase the darkness away. And no one, not even the Enemy, can take that Hope away. We can always be prepared to give a reason for the Hope that we have. When people ask us about the future of 2016, we can share Hope to a hopeless world. We do not need to be a trained evangelists to share why we have hope. We just have to open our mouths and be honest. It’s personal and not offensive simply to say, ‘For this reason I have Hope. Because God is Alive and I will live too’. Looking forward into 2016 is indeed a Time for Hope.